In common with other parts of Brittany, the south is big on Celtic festivals. That year, the city of Lorient claimed that its Inter-Celtique Festival rivalled Edinburgh in terms of the numbers of events and spectators. Ouest France each day devoted page after page to details of the various offerings in Lorient, Vannes and a number of smaller towns.
Over a three-day period at the start of the festival, a glance through the reports yielded ‘A night of Irish virtuosi’, Louise Mulcahy, Brian MacConmara on the Uilleann pipes, Irish dancing troupe Derrada; the group O’Stravaganza played Vivaldi on Irish instruments in packed venues. Three Irish pipe bands including the St. Patrick’s band from Co. Cork vied with Breton and Galician bands for the Beamish International Championship which involved Bobby Flannigan and Dicky Le as judges. Scattered throughout Ouest France were photographs of Irish soloists and groups, names such as Shaun Davey, Liam Og O’Flynn and Eddie McGuire.
Not content with welcoming Irish artistes to their festivals, the Bretons have also developed the habit of appropriating Irish music and adopting it to their local repertoire. Stepping ashore in Port Navalo on our return from a day-trip to the island of Belle-Isle En Mer, we were greeted to a French-language version of ‘Molly Malone’ followed by ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ in Breton. A folk-group was giving a free concert by the harbour, and we stayed to listen along with about six thousand locals and French visitors. Mind you, as we listened to the home-grown folksongs we began to understand the attraction of the imported music!